Well it does. It sucks long and it sucks hard. It sucks during the day and it sucks at night. And what it is sucking is the lifeblood of our democracy: information. As a recent CNN screenshot saved by the immortal Liquid List reminds us, our media no longer cares about providing their viewers and readers with important information needed to guide their lives. Instead, they have replaced it with fluff and gossip and crap. And it is killing our democracy.
And what will the typical big media defender use as the excuse for this trend? The Dreaded Bottom Line. News is expensive, they argue, and so news orgs are just bowing to market pressures and giving the consumers what they want, which is better for ratings and cheaper in expenses. And upon hearing this, there is absolutely nothing wrong with smacking the defender in the face and screaming "THAT'S WHAT THE FUCKING PROBLEM IS, DIPSHIT!" The excuse they use to defend this horrible, democracy-killing practice is THE GOD DAMN THING THAT WE'RE COMPLAINING ABOUT! Even the beloved Jon Stewart spewed that crap earlier this week, and he should be thanking Jehovah that his guest was an old CBS media dude (click on Fenton interview) and not me, as I'm a big man and I might have accidentally destroyed TV's best talk-show host in an Incredible Hulk-like moment of rage.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the problem is that the news should NOT be subject to market pressures. It's ok for Hollywood and TV to use popularity to determine worthiness because its intent is to entertain, and the best judge to determine entertainment value is popularity. But the intent of news should be to inform, and democracy demands an informed electorate. This stuff is much too important to let the ratings determine what is newsworthy. That is what People Magazine and the National Enquirer were made for. Both are always more widely read than Newsweek or the New York Times, but that doesn't make their news more worthy. On the contrary, nobody turns to People or the Enquirer for real news, so why are we allowing our news orgs to follow THEIR lead? If news orgs use popularity to determine newsworthiness, then they are just not doing their jobs.
And even when they cover actual news stories, they consistently emphasize the gossipy and fighting aspects of each story, rather than the fact side of it. The "He Said/She Said" coverage isn't accidental or lazy, it sells more stories and is cheaper to produce than actual research. And the last thing they want is for themselves to settle a dispute between the two parties. Conflicting claims over WMD's, Social Security, and taxcuts can fuel cheap news stories for months; where as factually-based stories settling these disputes will quickly kill them. And again the problem is that their intentions are wrong. They are not trying to inform; they are trying to sell stories.
At the root of this is corporate-ownership (of course). I don't subscribe at all to the idea that corporations are inherently evil (though there are certainly a few). But our news cannot be held hostage to market pressures and corporate needs. This shit has got to stop. In the short-term, crapification of the news helps corporations and political hucksters. But in the long-term, this trend will be the ruin of America. I am confident of that. I might explain the theory in full on a later date, but for now you'll just have to trust me: democracy requires real information. And the destruction of our democracy is not good for corporations or political hucksters. They might be bringing about its demise, but neither will be needed after the democracy is dead.